I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with Jennifer Manuel in May about her book, The Heaviness of Things That Float. I have so much to say about this novel and our conversation! But let me start with this: the novel is exceptionally well written. Jennifer is a master craftswoman who deserves to be widely read. The BC Book Prize folks agree--Jennifer won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2017.
The themes of The Heaviness of Things That Float are timely--we have been engaged in a nationwide conversation about cultural appropriation, responsibility, and ethics. The week before we recorded this episode, Canadians erupted to call out the mis-guided 'cultural appropriation prize' literary fiasco. In The Heaviness of Things That Float, Jennifer uses fiction to bring to life the very real issues Canadians must grapple with, including racism, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, privilege, and the need to have honest conversations about truth and reconciliation. In addition to talking about the novel, we ask: How do we transform conversation into action? And Ally-ship into reparation?
Jennifer Manuel is the author of The Heaviness of Things That Float (Douglas & McIntyre), winner of the 2017 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. She has also received acclaim for her short fiction, being a Western Magazine Finalist and recipient of the Storytellers Award at the Surrey International Writers Conference. A long-time activist in Indigenous issues, Manuel currently runs the TRC Reading Challenge, an effort to get people to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
2:00--Synopsis of The Heaviness of Things That Float.
3:00--How Jennifer feels about her success and winning a BC Book Prize and reaching 27 weeks on the BC Best Seller list - special thanks to independent booksellers for championing her book early on.
6:00--The main character, Bernadette, and who she is and the truths she fails to perceive and then how she comes to understand them.
10:44: We talk about the fine line between caring for friends and being patronizing.
11:32: What does it mean to belong? To feel accepted and loved?
13:20: Can you truly belong to a community if your set of available choices is different from your neighbours?
14:20: How do we begin to question our own privilege?
15:22: The issue of choices and why this is a good place to start.
16:17: Why life transitions expedite personal growth - out of crisis comes change.
18:11: Betrayal and its impact. How do we recover trust?
19:44: Why listening matters.
21:22: The misuse of the word decolonization
24:04: Secrets and forgiveness
25:21: How much does shame weigh? What's the volume of grief? How do you measure human suffering?
27:17: What is meaningful ally ship?
28:00: Difference between appreciation and appropriation?
31:00: Why the book needed a major rewrite/revision.
35:00: Deep revisions. What are revisions anyway? Reimagining!!
37:00: What Jennifer's working on now